WhatsApp update delayed until May following confusion

18 Jan 2021

Image: © Aleksei/Stock.adobe.com

The update, originally planned to take effect on 8 February, sparked privacy concerns regarding data sharing with Facebook.

Following widespread confusion and concerns among privacy experts and users, WhatsApp has announced a three-month delay on the enforcement of the latest update to its privacy terms.

Users will now have until 15 May to review and accept the new update. “We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update,” WhatsApp said on its company blog.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts.”

WhatsApp has been notifying its 2bn users about the update over the last few weeks, saying that the terms must be accepted by 8 February if users want to continue using the messaging app. However, the mandatory requirement to accept the new terms sparked concerns, particularly regarding data sharing with Facebook.

In its blogpost on Friday (15 January), WhatsApp stated that the update does not expand its ability to share data with Facebook.

“Instead, the update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. While not everyone shops with a business on WhatsApp today, we think that more people will choose to do so in the future and it’s important people are aware of these services.”

WhatsApp said that it now plans to work on clearing up the confusion around the update. It added that nobody will have their account suspended or deleted on 8 February, and it will “go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace” before 15 May.

GDPR investigation

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) sought clarity from WhatsApp to ensure that there would be no change to data-sharing practices in Europe. Deputy data protection commissioner Graham Doyle said the DPC had received “numerous queries from stakeholders who are confused and concerned” about the update.

“We engaged with WhatsApp on the matter and they confirmed to us that they will delay the date by which people will be asked to review and accept the terms from 8 February to 15 May,” he said.

The DPC has also been conducting an investigation into WhatsApp Ireland’s compliance with GDPR in terms of transparency, including what information is shared with Facebook.

“The DPC has provisionally concluded this investigation and we sent a draft decision to our fellow EU data protection authorities on 24 December 2020, in accordance with Article 60 of the GDPR in order to commence the co-decision-making process, and we are waiting to receive their comments on this draft decision,” Doyle added.

“When the process is completed and a final decision issues, it will make clear the standard of transparency to which WhatsApp is expected to adhere as articulated by EU data protection authorities.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic